Selah officials did not violate a landlord’s rights when the city obtained a court order to tear down apartments that inspectors deemed unfit to live in.
A three-judge panel of the Spokane-based Division III state Court of Appeals recently found the city did not deprive Steve Owens of his rights to due process by seeking a court order to demolish the 20-unit complex at 519 S. First St. The buildings were demolished in mid-2019.
Owens, who filed suit with his wife, Janet, argued in the appeal that the city denied the couple the opportunity to file an appeal of the city’s abatement order to the City Council, instead having Yakima County Superior Court Judge Michael McCarthy make a summary judgment ordering the demolition.
McCarthy issued the order in April 2019, after finding that Owens’ plans for repairing the building did not comply with the city’s order.
The appeals court found that Owens’ rights to due process were not violated, and that he was able to present his side before McCarthy.
The appellate court also upheld the city’s finding that the apartment’s constituted a public nuisance, despite arguments that Owens’ tenants did not express concerns about the building, and that Owens’ engineer said the buildings were repairable and that tearing down the apartments would eliminate affordable housing.
“We share Steve and Janet Owens’ concern for the availability of low-income housing for the population of the Yakima Valley,” Judge George B. Fearing wrote in the decision. “Nevertheless, all residents of Washington deserve safe housing.”
City officials began investigating the apartments in late 2017 after a resident said she was being evicted because she called firefighters to rescue her after falling through a rotting floor in her apartment.
A court-ordered inspection of the property found multiple code violations, including sagging roofs, windows sealed shut and water damage, as outlined in a 491-page report released by the city.